Role Descriptions

The Advanced Practice Rehabilitation Nurse

Definition of the role of the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse

The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) endorses the role of the advanced practice nurse as defined and described by the American Nurses Association in Nursing: A Social Policy Statement:

    "The advanced practice registered nurse works with individuals, families, groups, and communities to assess health needs; develop diagnoses; plan, implement and manage care; and evaluate outcomes of care. Within their specialty areas, advanced practice registered nurses may also plan and advocate care that promotes health and prevents disease and disability; direct care or manage systems of care for complex patient/family/community populations; manage acute and chronic Illness, and prescribe, administer, and evaluate pharmacological treatment regimes. In addition, advanced practice nurses serve as mentors, consultants, and educators of nurses in basic practice. They conduct research to expand the knowledge base." (p.16)

The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses defines advanced practice rehabilitation nursing in this way, as described in Scope and Standards of Advanced Clinical Practice in Rehabilitation Nursing:

    "Advanced practice nurses in rehabilitation have a graduate degree in nursing. They conduct comprehensive assessments and demonstrate a high level of autonomy and expert skill in diagnosis and treatment. They manage complex responses of individuals, families, groups and communities to actual or potential health problems stemming from altered functional ability and altered lifestyle (resulting from physical disability or chronic illness). Advanced practice nurses in rehabilitation synthesize complex data to formulate decisions and plans that optimize health, promote wellness, manage illness, prevent complications or secondary disabilities, maximize function and minimize handicap. Nurses in advanced practice integrate education, research, and consultation into their clinical practice role. They function in collaborative relationships with nursing peers, the interdisciplinary team, and others who influence the healthcare environment." (p.4-5)

Roles of the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse

The advanced practice rehabilitation nurse practices in a variety of roles including, but not limited to, those outlined below:

Direct Care Provider

  • Independently manages patients with complex rehabilitation needs
  • Serves as clinical expert regarding rehabilitation nursing
  • Serves as a clinical expert in complex clinical nursing situations
  • Acts as a resource for crisis intervention
  • Assesses the appropriateness of admission and delivery of services
  • Provides discharge planning
  • Collaborates with the interdisciplinary team
  • Promotes client/family adaptation to lifestyle changes


  • Provides education to clients, families, and communities
  • Performs staff orientation
  • Guides individual staff development
  • Provides continuing education programming
  • Acts as a mentor to nurses and students


  • Performs case finding
  • Provides case management
  • Serves as a liaison with third-party payers
  • Serves as a resource and a process consultant to staff
  • Evaluates and coordinates the interdisciplinary care program
  • Serves as a client advocate
  • Performs marketing and community relations activities
  • Implements programs to enhance staff recruitment and retention
  • Functions as a liaison with other community health professionals


  • Communicates relevant research results to staff
  • Guides the development of research-based nursing practice
  • Contributes to or conducts research activities
  • Incorporates relevant research findings into practice


  • Selects, evaluates, and guides the development of staff
  • Establishes operational policies and procedures
  • Develops, implements, and evaluates departmental and interdepartmental programs
  • Initiates, monitors and ensures the quality of services delivered

Advanced practice rehabilitation nurses may function in a variety of roles including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, case managers, administrators, educators, researchers, staff nurses, and consultants.

The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses believes that the role of the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse is a valuable asset within rehabilitation practice and is essential for the continued growth and expansion of rehabilitation nursing as a specialty. In every setting in which the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse functions, he or she acts as a role model for rehabilitation nurses. The value of the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse can be measured by the improved cost effectiveness of client care, increased nursing staff clinical knowledge and skill, reduced frequency of complications for the rehabilitation client, increased quality of nursing care, and savings on expenses resulting from the availability of a resident expert for consultation services. The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses encourages the development and expansion of the specialty of rehabilitation nursing through further promotion and utilization of the advanced practice rehabilitation nurse.


American Nurses Association. (1984). Nursing: A social policy statement. Kansas City, MO: Author.

This role description was developed by the Advanced Practice Nurses Special Interest Group of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.


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